Break the chains of rising attendance cost

In light of the UA's proposed tuition hikes for the 2010-11 school year, an excerpt from the Urban Dictionary:


Stockholm syndrome: ""A Muse song bordering on the line of insanity. Orgasmic guitar playing and brilliant heavy sections, you haven't lived till you've seen …""

MORE FROM THE DAILY WILDCAT


Er, sorry: Stockholm syndrome: ""Psychological condition in which hostages grow attached to their captor. This can cause the hostages to not testify against him or her and even to try to prevent themselves from being rescued.""


As a UA student reading this, ask yourself: Is this you? Do you find the rising cost of attendance dismaying yet inevitable, the object of a few heated GChats but little more? Or maybe, as an upperclassman accustomed to excoriation of the pocketbook, you find yourself readily agreeing with President Robert Shelton's justifications to raise in-state tuition by 25 percent in a single year.


Whatever your particular woe, there is a solution, a way to escape the fusillade of fees and rate hikes: Community college.


Seriously.


The idea is pure economic efficiency: the most benefit for the least cost. Anyone who's spent at least a semester on campus can testify that classes not directly relevant to a major are essentially memorization exercises of little long-term value (i.e., math for English students). Typically, these courses constitute about two-thirds of one's degree load — at least 75 units.


Freezing the UA's 2009-10 tuition rates for the sake of argument, in-state residents spend about $36,000 for these courses, out-of-state residents a cool $80,000. Compare those figures to the $4,000 and $6,500, respectively, they would pay for the same credit load at Pima Community College.


Granted, this is an incredibly oversimplified analysis. Among other faults, it fails to recognize that the UA allows credits from only certain community college courses to transfer over in one-for-one fashion.


In any event, this theory could prove useful in practice. Imagine if financially challenged students began taking classes exclusively at Pima or a similar institution for their first year and then transferred to the UA. Thereafter, they would wean off the cheaper classes as the latter became less and less compatible with degree requirements. This could easily save the average student thousands. 


An obvious downside to this approach is that participants wouldn't get to partake in dorm life, Greek life or other unique aspects of college tied to freshman year. Obviously, these enticements will be deal-breakers for some. For others, hey, there are plenty of affordable, student-laden neighborhoods near campus.


A more serious issue here is that by diverting students' tuition money away from the UA, tuition rates could well increase, as the university — not likely to see its state funding significantly increase anytime soon — would require a major capital stream.


While highly problematic in theory, such a development, even if realized, should ultimately work in students' favor.


Hopefully, part of the university's mission to provide the best-quality education involves catering to the needs and behaviors of the student body. Rising tuition rates discourage students from wanting to enroll and remain enrolled at a given institution, whether or not people follow through. In time, students — who are, at their core, consumers — will look to a different product if the burden becomes too great. Such is the choice we all have, if we choose to exercise it. Doing so will eventually send the message that the system must change, evolve to thrive.


A public hearing addressing Shelton's tuition proposal will be held March 1 in the Harvill building room 211 at 5 p.m. This may be students' best chance to organize and make their views heard before the Arizona Board of Regents votes on the proposal March 11.


In the meantime, captive audience, do feel free to explore your options in stymying your rising cost of attendance. Indeed, feel free.



Tom Knauer is a first-year law student. He can be reached at

letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


Share this article